Tag Archives: South Korea

My PyeongChang Diary (Part 7)

Those who know me know that I like meat. I’m an unrepentant carnivore.

26So, naturally, I have spent much of the scant recreational time I have during the Olympic Games in search of the best Korean barbeque available in the PyeongChang area.

Living in Los Angeles, I’m acquainted with the tradition of Korean barbeque – but I figured that, being in the motherland, I could treat myself to the very best. My first two attempts at local Korean BBQ dining were good – but neither was a meat-eater’s home run.

1aAnd then, last night, I found — and enjoyed — Korean BBQ heaven.

Our cameraman Corey found the place. It was a 20-minute cab ride from our Phoenix Park hotel – but we were hungry for adventure (and barbequed beef) so we were down for the excursion.

What follows is a pictorial progression through a beef lover’s Korean BBQ pilgrimage. Vegan’s need not apply…

2a

This is the downstairs dining area. You’ll note that there are only Koreans here at this point in the evening. That is absolutely a good sign. We’ve come to the right place.

5This night was Korean Lunar New Year. And the South Koreans were enjoying one of their biggest annual holidays. (See Vietnam’s Tet.) Does the Tet Offensive ring a bell?

We didn’t realize it when we set out, but the restaurant would get very, very busy — and we would have to wait a while to be seated, unlike these folks who shared a special Asian room, with no chairs.

(No shoes, please.)

After dinner, we’d be unable to get a cab ride home because of the busy holiday, but that’s another matter.

The whole evening took 5 hours. But, all in all, it was well worth it!

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The first step in traditional Korean Barbecue is to visit the butcher and buy your cuts of meat.

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This woman knows her meat. She explained that the steer we’d be eating was raised organically, with no hormones, grass fed — and A #1. She was not bullshitting.

We bought our beef BEFORE we cooked it. That’s the way it goes. You buy your meat first, then you get seated — and your drinks and everything else are billed later. Meat is Job #1.

With cameraman Corey in the lead, we hauled out cuts of beef to the upstairs dining room after a 20-minute wait. We were famished — but we anticipated beefy, tasty, spicy joy in our near future.

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The upstairs dining room. It’s getting busy. The meat is about to get cooking…

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Unlike our cold, steel and glass hotel in Phoenix Park, this Korean BBQ place features warm wood and delightful crystal chandeliers — which we would later learn are from the United States!

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Seated across the table from me are my AP, Agatha, and my EP, David. We’re all hungry.

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First come the condiments: onions, garlic, chili paste, peppers, sea salt & other culinary joys.

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Next, they fire up the tabletop grill. The main meat-lovers event is about to go down…

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As the meat grills, you combine ingredients into your bowl — in my case, chili paste, peppers, onions and garlic — so you can plunge your beef bits deep into this spicy heaven.

Next, Corey pulls down the exhaust fan. Otherwise, we’ll all be asphyxiated….

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Our waiter provides some assistance. Everyone is helpful. They all want us to have a great time.

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As our first beef course sears on the grill, our crew poses for a pre-meal photo. We’ve all been working hard — and we’re eager for a great meal. Luckily, David & Corey are Korean BBQ experts.

Corey took over as grillmaster. For those of you who know me from Greek Easter — you can appreciate how much I respect Corey’s Korean BBQ chops!

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Each cut of beef was better than the next — and the last course was the best of all…

Corey was far too modest. His grilling of that last fabulous cut of beef was superb. But our meal was not yet complete. Corey had another great idea…

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At Corey’s suggestion we ordered this. Somehow, all of this tasty goodness boiled down into an incredible, sweet beef and veggie soup.

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And finally, here’s our host. Jean went to college and spent a lot of time in Los Angeles (as have a lot of educated South Koreans we’re met). She returned to South Korea a year ago  and started running this restaurant — recognized on Trip Advisor as the best in PyeongChang.

I’m awarding her an Winter Olympic Gold Medal for the Best Korean BBQ.

All hail, Jean!

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My PyeongChang Diary (Part 3)

I’ve been in South Korea for less than four days – and I find that I must already issue a personal apology to the good merchants of PyeongChang and the entire South Korean nation.

IMG_6059But first I must satisfy my wife’s desire for photos taken from inside the “convenience store” that has vexed me since my arrival in country.

CU, which opened in 1990 as FamilyMart, has more than 10,000 stores and is the largest chain store in South Korea. The signage suggests there is some relation to the American chain CVS – but my hasty, haphazard Internet research has not turned up a connection.

IMG_6060The CU store looks like it should have a lot of stuff that you want. It’s crazy colorful, with rows of tantalizing packaging – but nothing is quite as good as it looks.

It’s 85% snacks — and 15% beer. From what I’ve seen, South Korea is a beer drinking culture.

To be certain, there are Ramen noodles for days. In fact, this particular CU store features a display of noodle containers stacked to resemble a Mayan temple complex. Sort of.

IMG_6061And then there is this strange machine, which I suspect is either a lottery machine or something to do with cigarettes.IMG_6066I must admit that I am simply a befuddled American peering into the smallest window of South Korean culture – and unable to see what would be apparent to a wise traveller who actually prepared to go to South Korea beyond bringing warm clothes, thermal socks and two bags of toe warmers.

IMG_6062But, looking at the beverage cases in the back of the CU, we come to the reason for my apology.

In my previous posts I have decried the absence of Diet Coke in PyeongChang. Full of righteous indignation and good old American superiority, I have maligned the CU for not stocking a decent Chardonnay – and for not having Diet Coke.

But let’s look closer at these two Coke bottles side by side. They look almost the same. But if one looks closer (which Americans rarely do) it is clear that these bottles are not entirely alike.IMG_6063 One, in fact, subtly but clearly states that it has “Zero Sugar”. And, if one bothers to actually read the front label, it’s also clear that it has zero calories. It is, in fact, Coke Zero. Not Diet Coke exactly — but entirely deserving of an apology.

I can at least wash down the heaping helping of crow I must eat with a diet beverage, full of caffeine and that great cola taste.

WineOn the other hand, my only Chardonnay options continue to be a terrible Chilean wine – and a semi-potable concoction foisted upon the Koreans by an unscrupulous California vintner.

Then again, maybe I’m not looking closely enough.

Travel is all about learning — and being open to what you don’t know. After four days in South Korea, my education has barely begun.img04

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